What, Exactly, Is an Interventional Radiologist?

osman-ahmedBy Osman Ahmed, MD

During my training as an interventional radiologist, my family, patients and colleagues in other specialties would ask me exactly what it was that I did. Only after training another six years after medical school, I’ve come to realize that the answer is far more complex than the question would imply.

In the simplest of terms, interventional radiologists use cutting-edge imaging equipment to perform minimally invasive procedures. We are part radiologist because we must interpret imaging studies like X-ray, computed tomography (CT) and ultrasound to diagnose abnormalities inside patients. But we are also part surgeon (or more aptly coined “interventionalists”), as we use this imaging to guide a combination of needles, wires and catheters to treat these abnormalities.

While this explanation provides insight into how our specialty works, it still doesn’t answer what it is that we do. Herein the answer gets even more complicated because, we in interventional radiology, at the risk of sounding arrogant, believe there is very little that we can’t do. The Society of Interventional Radiology lists over 32 generic types of procedures done by IR, but this only scratches the surface of the services we can provide to our patients and referring physicians at Rush University Medical Center.

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